Elevation: 4,060 ft
GPS: 38.494, -120.217 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 92,387 total · 604/month
Shared By: Blitzo on Oct 22, 2006
Admins: Aron Quiter, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

Description

When climbers venture into this area for the first time, the anticipation is nearly staggering while driving the long meandering roads that lead zig zag their way miles into the Sierra backcountry. Along the drive, there is barely a rock along side the road let alone anything that might hint at being even remotely climbable. As you round the last few bends and drop down into the river basin, the first thing you'll see is several large campgrounds, usually totally empty except on weekends and holidays in peak season. These are some of the last totally developed first come first served free campgrounds you'll ever encounter. Especially in California, where everything seems to have a price. As you drive through the shady understory, a few small obscure cliff bands will stir your excitement just before the first dome comes into view. The first dome that you see is the North side of Hidden Dome. A jumble of rocks that looks like a series of massive boulders stacked on top of one another, this dome is nearly 900 feet tall, but gets almost completely dwarfed by what's to come. If it weren't for the impressive East side of this dome (which has a 600 foot vertical to overhanging wall hidden among its flanks, which upon viewing for the first time will absolutely take your breath away), this dome would probably have seen next to no traffic at all.  

As you continue along your journey, the view of the massive Calaveras Dome and Hammer Dome come into view. The response most climbers have upon viewing this massive 2000 feet of nearly vertical rock is usually a moment of disbelief, as no one really expects it to be quite that big.
Calaveras and Hammer Domes are comprised of bullet proof granite, with striking splitter cracks that can go on for hundreds of feet, knobs that make negotiating the smooth slabs possible and dikes that resemble a pumped out burly climbers veiny forearms, which criss-cross up the wall, sometimes stretching for several hundred feet. There is something for every style of climbing here, and the grades can range from cruiser 5.7's, wild sphincter puckering .10's and .11's, all the way up to burly 5.13+ routes. Of these routes, there are plenty of single pitch routes to play around on. Especially on some of the smaller satellite crags around. However, most routes are 5 pitches or more, with routes like the Karakorum Highway clocking in at a staggering 19 pitches. There are even a few excellent grade V big walls one can venture up if that is your particular cup of tea.

CAMPING

There is ample camping to be found among the three established campgrounds (The Mokelumne, White Azalea and Moore Creek Campgrounds) which so far have remained totally free. They have pit toilets, fire rings, picnic tables, are relatively flat and most are close to the river. However, they can be fairly busy during peak fishing, hunting and holidays during the summer months. Not to worry, there are plenty of spots up the road where one can pull off and have a relatively secluded spot all to themselves. There is even a large flat quarry up the road near the power station that could park a hundred cars which many people just choose to use as a place to camp for the evening. This quarry even comes with one of the best views of Calaveras Dome. A spot which has been host to many eager climbers with a pair of Binoculars, hatching out new plans to ascend into unknown territory. The camping around this area is generally hassle free. There are no rangers with a ticket book in hand looking for any excuse to hand out fines, no such thing as "bandit camping" and you are almost free to stay as long as you'd like. So long as you move to a fresh camping spot every 14 days. But whos enforcing that? The area has been referred to being like camping in Yosemite in the 1960's. With using some common sense, cleaning up after those who don't, a little stewardship and some general respect for others, hopefully it will remain this way for many years to come.  

Getting There

The fastest way to get there is via Ellis Creek Road (Panther Road is significantly longer, and more dirt road). The road is mostly paved (though lots of potholes). There is one section where the road washed out, but it has been well repaired and is passable by any car type. The signage for the turnoff for Ellis Road off of 88 is not super-obvious (especially if you are heading west on 88)-- you are in the right place if you see bathrooms right by the turnout.

Panther Creek Road is another alternative to Ellis Creek just a few minutes down the road to the West. Ellis Creek is at a higher elevation than Panther Creek and typically takes longer to "melt out" in the spring. So if conditions are iffy, better to take Panther Creek, which adds another 15 minutes to your drive but is usually good if you don't see snow along the road at the turnoff. Which is not always the case for Ellis.

Tiger Creek Road is another alternative to approaching the domes. Though significantly longer (about 45 minutes longer on dirt roads) Tiger Creek is usually snow free year round and is the only option during the snowy months. Tiger Creek road is found just beyond the small town of Pioneer when approaching from the West.

Read or post at the Ellis road to Calaveras dome current conditions forum.

56 Total Climbs

Route Finder - Best Climbs for YOU!

Location: Calaveras Domes Change
Type:  to 
Quality:
Pitches:
Sort by:   then:
 

Classic Climbing Routes at Calaveras Domes

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
 23
Wings and Stings
Trad 3 pitches
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 34
Gemini Cracks
Trad 3 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 9
Old Smokey
Trad 7 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 36
Sands of Time
Trad 11 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 7
Sea of Holes
Trad 5 pitches
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
 7
Smoke Screen
Trad 6 pitches
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
 7
Schizophrenic Dike
Trad 3 pitches
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b PG13
 55
Wall of the Worlds
Trad 9 pitches
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 4
Squeaks of Gold
Trad, Sport
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
 27
Silk Road (High Times)
Trad 14 pitches
5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a
 4
Fine Line
Sport
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Wings and Stings Hammer Dome
 23
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad 3 pitches
Gemini Cracks Hammer Dome
 34
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 3 pitches
Old Smokey Calaveras Dome > N Face Apron
 9
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 7 pitches
Sands of Time Calaveras Dome > Northeast Face
 36
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 11 pitches
Sea of Holes Hammer Dome
 7
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 5 pitches
Smoke Screen Hammer Dome
 7
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Trad 6 pitches
Schizophrenic Dike Calaveras Dome > Northeast Face
 7
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Trad 3 pitches
Wall of the Worlds Calaveras Dome > Central Dome
 55
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b PG13 Trad 9 pitches
Squeaks of Gold Hammer Dome
 4
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Trad, Sport
Silk Road (High Times) Calaveras Dome > Northeast Face
 27
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c Trad 14 pitches
Fine Line Calaveras Dome > Northeast Face
 4
5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a Sport
More Classic Climbs in Calaveras Domes »

Weather Averages

High
 
Low
 
Precip
 
Days w Precip
 
Prime Climbing Season
J F M A M J J A S O N D
J F M A M J J A S O N D
Bryan G
Yosemite
Bryan G   Yosemite
Clint Cummins's website offers a great resource for this area.

stanford.edu/~clint/caldome… Oct 25, 2011
mpech  
Amazing area with superb rock climbing and almost no rock climbers. Most of the traffic in the area seems to be people BBQ'ing/hanging out in the river/etc...

To get there:
the fastest way to get there is via Ellis Road (panther road is significantly longer, and more dirt road). The road is mostly paved (though lots of potholes). There is one section where the road washed out, but it has been well repaired and is passable by any car type. The signage for the turnoff for Ellis road off of 88 is not super-obvious (especially if you are heading west on 88)-- you are in the right place if you see bathrooms right by the turnout. Jun 15, 2014
Bobby Hutton
Gold Country CA
Bobby Hutton   Gold Country CA
Calaveras Domes is accessible via Bear River Reservoir. Drive over the dam and continue up the paved road until spur 19 takes off to the right. If you hit gravel you have gone to far. Follow spur 19 (paved) until it Ts into Salt Springs Reservoir Rd, Go left. Jul 16, 2017
Road Condition Report: According to a sign on the gate, Panther Rd is closed from Sept 22 2017 until Sept 22 2018 due to "public safety". To our surprise, Ellis Rd was open on Dec 25th, 2017 and the climbing conditions on Hammer Dome and Rainy Day Rock/Stairs Cliff were excellent. Ellis Rd was in great condition and snow free. Dec 27, 2017
Bobby Hutton
Gold Country CA
Bobby Hutton   Gold Country CA
I have looked for a guidebook and not found anything that is any better than what is on Mountain Project. Poor beta has always been part of my Calaveras Dome experiences. Jan 5, 2018
Mike Arechiga
Oakhurst
Mike Arechiga   Oakhurst
Mike A. has a new 2018 Cal Dome climbers guide book on Flash Drive Publisher, contact Mike A. for info on new book. Apr 18, 2018
Does anyone know if Spur 19 road (from Bear River Reservoir) is plowed? Just wondering if this would be a more reliable access road since having such a heavy snow year. Apr 8, 2019
Salamanizer suchoski
Janesville Ca.
Salamanizer suchoski   Janesville Ca.  
No, Spur 19 is not plowed. Apr 9, 2019
J K
J K  
What are the current climbing conditions at Calaveras? Was there last year around May-ish and it was good to go though some stuff was still drying up. Heavy snow year probably gonna drag this out? Apr 16, 2019 · Temporary Report
Salamanizer suchoski
Janesville Ca.
Salamanizer suchoski   Janesville Ca.  
It's good to go. Have to go in Tiger Creek rd but the place is snow free. Some wet routes, but normal for this time of year. Apr 22, 2019